EGM’s High Five: Bellator: MMA Onslaught
If there’s a king of the MMA world in video games, it’s undoubtedly the UFC—especially considering their newly announced partnership with EA Sports. But for fight fans who want to dabble outside of the UFC roster, there’s still plenty of room in the market for a runner-up in the mixed martial arts category. Bellator Fighting Championships (often shortened to just “Bellator”) is currently the de-facto #2 MMA promotion in the United States thanks to MTV’s sponsorship and Spike TV’s advertising, while 345 Games and Kung Fu Factory are taking charge of Bellator’s first video game, Bellator: MMA Onslaught.
A Tighter Fighter
Kung Fu Factory’s development record includes UFC 2009 Undisputed (which was great) and two MMA Supremacy games (which weren’t good at all), but 345 Games is taking the lead and rounding out a more focused gameplay experience. Instead of a physical retail release, Bellator: MMA Onslaught is going to be download-only and features only two weight divisions. More importantly, the gameplay isn’t the heavy, technical, “practice for a month to get good enough to play online” style of UFC Undisputed, but a simpler system that’s designed to be easier to pick up. It’s a small package, but fan feedback suggests that 345 Games will eventually add more content in future updates.
Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em
In fact, I think that technical players will be frustrated with Bellator: MMA Onslaught, as the gameplay is more focused on brawling and simple transitions. It was hard for me to get a handle on, as I’m used to having a variety of different punches and attacks that simulate an actual fight. Bellator: MMA Onslaught is deliberately simple—all the attacks are mapped to face buttons, while takedowns, transitions, submissions, escapes, sweeps, and grappling are controlled by flicking the right stick. While I wasn’t able to perfect it, the EGM camera crew had no problem going back and forth dishing out high kicks and hooks.
Featherweights & Lightweights Only
Overall, the gameplay is very fast-paced, which is fitting for the roster. Bellator’s lightweight and featherweight divisions have eight fighters featured in the game, some of them being the most popular faces in the promotion: current lightweight champion Michael Chandler, current featherweight champion Pat Curran, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, Patricky Freire, featherweight tournament champion Daniel Straus, Ronnie Mann, former featherweight champion Joe Warren, and featherweight tournament contender Marlon Sandro. Of course, Bellator has many more fighters and divisions from women’s to heavyweight, and it’s not ruled out that they could be included in future releases.
If eight fighters feels a little paltry, Bellator: MMA Onslaught also features a character creation system that starts with four core fighting disciplines—MMA, wrestling, BJJ, and kickboxing—and a variety of upgradable skills. You’ll gain experience for every online and offline fight whether you win or lose, and losing in a spirited effort actually benefits you. For example, if you get knocked out in a fight but retain a high striking percentage, you’ll get a high “A” or “B” grade for the effort. Winning or losing a match after whiffing most of your punches will earn you a lower grade or less experience, so there’s an incentive for not button mashing in every single fight.
Rough Around The Edges
It feels like Bellator: MMA Onslaught is one of those titles that constantly makes me say “for a downloadable game.” For example, the graphics are decent—for a downloadable game. Our demo session featured a near-retail version of the game with fighters that unmistakably looked like their real-life counterparts, but the gameplay was marred with noticeable clipping issues as hands went though heads and torsos. In general, the combat is good—for a downloadable game. Players have to keep their health bar up while not draining their stamina bar, leveling off the combat at a quick back-and-forth pace. It’s a system specifically geared towards quick fights with snap-submissions and flash-KOs, but it all lacks finesse. Still, at the $15 price point, it’ll be a good litmus test to see if the budget price and Bellator’s name brand can make this an alternative to the UFC’s big-budget production.